About this Archive
Tenebris Light (1956-2020) enjoyed a well-travelled childhood with his parents Jean and Irvin and siblings Gillian and John. He lived in various countries including Iraq and Canada as his father worked as an engineer. Before his teens, his parents separated in Canada and he returned to Birmingham UK with his mother. His commitment to fighting inequalities and supporting the peace movement blossomed in his teens where he became a member of the Birmingham Peace Centre Collective.
Birmingham Peace Centre Collective was a radical bookshop and meeting place for peace and non-violence located in the centre of Birmingham which supported a number of left-wing causes including the emerging Women’s Liberation, LGBTQ+ and Black Power movements. He was a member of the radical ‘Oats’ vegetarian /vegan cafe and shop in Birmingham and lived for a time above the Wholefood shop on King’s Heath High Street in 1976. He started writing poetry in 1974 and helped to establish the Kleek poetry collective which performed at one of the Windsor Pop festivals. Tenebris had a lifelong interest in art, literature, music, mysticism and theosophy. He was fluent in several languages including French, Italian and Arabic and travelled regularly to these countries. During 1974 he was arrested along with 13 others whilst campaigning with the British Withdrawal from Northern Ireland campaign. This included possession of a leaflet titled “Some Information for Discontented Soldiers” which was targeted at military personnel who had already decided to leave the army. He was working as a make-up artist at the time for BIBA.
A fifty-one-day trial ensued at the Old Bailey where it took just 30-minutes for the jury to return a unanimous not guilty verdict for all 31 charges. Tenebris’s plea to the court made press headlines - “I plead for peace in the world of war, love in the world of hate, and an end to politically motivated trials in this country.” In the summer of 1976, he moved permanently to London. Within a few years, he established a shop selling antique lighting and antiquarian and rare books with his friend Serena in Portobello Road. Following this, he managed the Charing Cross branch of Words and Music bookshop. In the early 1980s, he launched the publishing house Brilliance Books with his then partner Roy. Later the author Jeanette Winterson joined as Women’s Editor. They published new Lesbian and Gay authors and had an imprint ‘Plain Edition’ which republished classics including The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook. Around 1990 his friend purchased a derelict village in Italy and he set off for several months to assist them with the rebuilding project and to further improve his Italian.
On his return, he continued his writing and supported and cared for many friends diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. He worked for a number of years as a freelance lighting gaffer for a visual effects company all over Europe. His writing evolved into a series of plays, many staged at the Oval House Theatre, London and an independent theatre in the Haymarket. Plays included The Missing Scale, Spinning, Paki Boy and Liberace’s Suit. In the late 1990s, he worked with an advocacy charity for rail passengers’ rights before becoming ill around 2008. Against all odds after months recovering in St Bartholomew’s Hospital, Tenebris was able to move to a unit in South London where he learned to walk again.
Later he moved to The Jacob Centre in Hertfordshire to build up his strength with swimming and physiotherapy. During the last ten years, he lived in two care homes firstly in North London and for the last ten years in Norwich. During this time he endeared himself to the staff with his positive and uncomplaining attitude and his sense of humour. Tenebris had a full and exciting life but he will be remembered by his family and friends for his generosity and kindness. He has renown for hosting wonderful Sunday lunches and parties. His eclectic taste in music, art, clothes and jewellery. Tenebris loved his family and enjoyed many visits to them in Canada over the years. During the last 12 years he received regular visits from his mum until ill health meant she was unable to travel and she sadly passed away in July 2020. During his lifetime Tenebris enjoyed 3 significant relationships, firstly with Roy Trevelion, and then Iain Sheard. Whilst these relationships did not endure, his friends were delighted when he met his partner Ian Gillie and found someone to love and share his life with.
Scope and Content
Archive of playwright Tenebris Light (1956-2020), including drafts of scripts for published and unpublished plays by Light, drafts and manuscripts of published and unpublished short stories and fiction writing; photographs; notebooks containing notes, poetry and creative ideas by Light; personal and professional photographs; press cuttings of reviews of Light's plays; correspondence to and from Light; coursework for educational courses; research on musician Tiny Tim; poetry by Light, 1976-2021.